Thoughts on the upcoming Ghost in the Shell: Arise OVAs

Information about the new Ghost in the Shell anime (subtitled Arise) is being drip fed from its Production I.G. stewards and the vocal reaction has been... disparaging. The voice cast has changed, the character designs are too moe, the soundtrack isn't Yoko Kanno. Etcetera.

To them I say: excellent.

And I don't say that lightly as I am an ardent fan of GITS in all of its forms, including the divisive second Mamoru Oshii movie, Innocence. I am a person who painstakingly tried to translate and decipher Standalone Complex and 2nd GIG when there were no fansubs or English releases for them. I am a person who bought the special edition DVDs as they came out in America (and then again in the UK) for the superior DTS audio version, only to realise I was now knee deep in tachikoma figurines. I am a person who could tell you that there is a "Directed by K. K." message on the ring of a cybernetic iris on a bit character in the second episode of SAC. I know and love Ghost in the Shell.

Which is why the clean break the new cinema/OVA series is making is a brilliant thing. GITS is far better as a framework, a concept, hung in a technicolour cyberpunk world than a fixed point that must be stoically adhered to; and this is regardless of whether you believe the manga, films and series operate in their own timelines or create their own chronology (hi Zelda fans!).

To take but one example from the deluge of negativity: Motoko does indeed look more feminine in the promotional material released for Arise so far; however you compare her 1995 animated debut to the 2002 SAC entrance and the "sexing up" of her there is clear. Compare even the design of the Major in the first episode of SAC to the last episode of 2nd GIG. Were it not for the side story in 2nd GIG about Motoko's origins, it would still be a dangling question as to whether she is in fact "male" or "female" - a useless delineation when the body is entirely customisable and free from the thralls of proceational bifurcation.

Standalone Complex and 2nd GIG were undeniably dream projects with a phenomenal team behind them, but with the cost of each episode running into the millions of dollars it was always an open question as to whether Production I.G. would ever produce more. That they have is tremendous, but just because the vocal cast is different, the music isn't Yoko Kanno and Kenji Kamiyama isn't in the director's chair doesn't damn the project before it's seen the light of day.

This doesn't mean I don't have my worries for it, but I would rather be openly optimistic and, in the worst case, admit it didn't meet expectations after its conclusion than attempt to globally lower expectations and gird myself for what could be another AO. The world of GITS is endlessly rich and the backstory to Motoko (now voiced by the lovely Maaya Sakamoto) which Arise claims to delve into is equally tantalising with her full body cyberisation and encountering several world wars, the technological ascent of Japan and the jingoistic birth of the American Empire - and that's just by the SAC storyline.

From here, the future looks bright.

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